Posted in Africa, Elephants, Morula

A Morning Walk with Elephants, Part Two

An excerpt from my book:

Morula stands around fidgeting, if an elephant can be said to fidget.  She lifts her right leg and swings her foot.  Puts it down, backs up two steps.  Lifts her leg and swings her foot again.

Sandi is quick to notice.

“Morula, here,“ Sandi commands and Morula complies, touching Sandi’s leg with her trunk.  I join them.

Sandi has the calm face of a mother with large, exuberant children.  Her eyes have white creases at their corners from squinting into the sun.  She wears a huge, floppy cloth hat with a brim longer in back than in front.  It’s black under the brim and light green on top.

“How many commands do they understand?” I ask.

“Verbal? About a hundred.  And that’s limited only by our imagination, not theirs.”

Morula leans in like an eager teenager.

She’s a little too close for Sandi’s liking.  “Morula, over and back.”  Sandi taps on Morula’s leg.  Morula backs up a step.  “Over and back.”  Morula is carefully responsive.  When you’re as big as she is, every movement has consequence.  Each step backward is slow, deliberate, and precisely placed.

Once Sandi has her positioned, she gestures to me. I step forward and place a hand on Morula’s trunk.  Studded with sparse bristles, her trunk feels like a stiff old brush.  I look up.

Three-inch lashes cast shadows down Morula’s cheeks.  She blinks and her lashes sweep against her skin like small brooms.  A bit of matter is clustered in the corner of her lower eyelid.

Morula's eye

Each of the more than 200 lashes around my eye is shed every 3 to 5 months.  Has anyone ever done research on the shed rate of elephant eyelashes?

I could.

I could stand here forever looking into the oak burls of her eyes.


Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

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